Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

Session 2003-04
15 September 2004 Climate change, water security and flooding: Committee publishes its report

15 September 2004 Climate change, water security and flooding: Committee publishes its report

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee has today published a report which examines the likely implications of climate change for water policy in England. Climate change models predict that the United Kingdom will experience wetter winters and drier summers in the years ahead-meaning that there will be both an increased risk of flooding and an increased likelihood of water shortages.

The Committee concludes that the Government needs to start planning now if it is to mitigate the impacts of climate change on both flooding and water availability. Perhaps the most important step that the Government must take is to give careful consideration to flood risk when planning new developments. Where possible, building on the flood plain should be avoided. Those developments that are built on the flood plain should be designed to be as resilient as possible to flooding. At the same time, planning guidance to local authorities should require that water availability be taken into consideration and building regulations should require greater water efficiency.

The Committee identifies a pressing need for wider public understanding of the way that climate change may affect water use; it recommends that water companies, Government and the Environment Agency take the lead in raising awareness about the value of water and the potential for water scarcity if it is not managed wisely. We must move towards more rational use of water: linking the cost to the amount used is an important step towards this goal. At the same time, it is important that everyone is able to afford enough water to meet their basic needs.

The Committee warmly welcomes the Office of Science and Technology's Foresight report on flood and coastal defence. It is now up to the Government to take this work forward; the Committee recommends that the Government publish a white paper that offers a candid assessment of the implications of the report for flood protection and planning.



The report follows an inquiry announced on 17 March 2004 and conducted in April and May 2004.

The Committee received written evidence from a number of interested parties. The Committee took oral evidence from: the Institution of Civil Engineers; Water UK; the Association of British Insurers; the Broadland Agricultural Water Abstractors Group; Professor Sir David King, Chief Scientific Adviser to HM Government and Head of the Office of Science and Technology; the Environment Agency; and Elliot Morley MP, Minister for Environment and Agri-Environment, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

The full report will be available on our website from around 3.30 pm on 16 September at www.parliament.uk/efracom.